Kyle Kuzma usually finds his identify on the Twitter timeline for his outfits on the pregame runway, however when is the final time you’ve got watched him play on the court docket?
For most, it is most likely been since he was in a Lakers uniform final season, so if it has been some time, it’s your decision to tune in.
The 26-year-old is having fun with the greatest stretch of his profession, wanting like the player he was as soon as anticipated to be after he averaged 16 factors and 6 rebounds per sport as a rookie, incomes All-Rookie First Team honors with Los Angeles again in 2018.
But earlier than we get to his recent resurgence, let’s assume again to how he ended up right here.
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Kuzma confirmed a lot potential throughout his rookie season that he turned considered as a constructing block for Los Angeles’ subsequent pursuit of a title. Once LeBron James got here to city – together with the commerce rumors that inevitably observe him – Kuzma someway managed to be the solely younger player to survive the mass exodus.
They did not re-sign Julius Randle to make room for James, and after one season, the Lakers traded the relaxation of their younger core in a bundle for Anthony Davis. Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart had been all despatched to New Orleans, but Kuzma was the one younger player of that core to stick round. (To be clear: Alex Caruso caught round, too, however he wasn’t seen as precious then as he is now.)
It even obtained to the level that Kobe Bryant was speaking about why the Lakers noticed Kuzma as “untouchable.”
Kuzma received the 2020 NBA championship with the Lakers, however after they got here up brief in 2021, Los Angeles tried to act quick to maximize LeBron’s championship window. It traded Kuzma, together with Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a first-round decide to the Wizards for Russell Westbrook, which brings us up to velocity.
That deal has allowed Kuzma to show himself as a player in his first season out from beneath James’ wing since his rookie yr, and he’s made the most of that chance, maximizing his skillset in methods he by no means would have been succesful of in Los Angeles.
Take this recent stretch for instance.
I can write that Kuzma is averaging 23.8 factors, 10.9 rebounds and three.3 assists whereas taking pictures 52.4 % from the area over his final 11 video games, however it does not do it the identical justice because it does while you see these video games listed out:
- vs. Knicks: 18 PTS, 10 REB
- vs. 76ers: 12 PTS, 10 REB
- vs. Heat: 22 PTS, 7 REB
- vs. Cavaliers: 25 PTS, 10 REB
- vs. Bulls: 29 PTS, 12 REB
- vs. Hornets: 36 PTS, 14 REB, 6 AST
- vs. Rockets: 24 PTS, 9 REB
- vs. Bulls: 21 PTS, 11 REB
- vs. Magic: 27 PTS, 22 REB (!)
- vs. Thunder: 29 PTS, 5 REB
- vs. Magic: 19 PTS, 10 REB, 9 AST
Over this stretch, Kuzma had eight double-doubles, a streak of nine-straight 20-point video games and an unfathomable 27-point, 22-rebound sport. Following a near-triple-double effort on Wednesday, the Wizards have now received three video games in a row, seeming to get again on monitor after a red-hot begin was derailed by a regression to the imply.
Kuzma has been the most impactful player on this fast turnaround, rising as a shot creator, playmaker and rebounder with each sport.
His 9 assists in opposition to the Magic had been a season-high, dishing out behind-the-back passes on the fastbreak as we have by no means seen earlier than. He had a publish transfer that had the NBA’s official Twitter account evaluating his footwork to Hakeem Olajuwon’s “Dream Shake.”
And he’s advanced right into a dependable No. 2 scoring possibility behind Bradley Beal together with his powerful shotmaking on show all through this recent hot streak.
But most impressively, Kuzma has been there for the Wizards any time they want a clutch shot, pulling down a handful of daggers – whether or not it be to put the sport out of attain, tie the sport or win the sport.
According to NBA stats, Kuzma’s 65 factors in the clutch rank seventh in the league, trailing solely Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Ja Morant and Zach LaVine.
Talk about respectable firm.
Kuzma has shot 51.3 % from the area and 50.0 % from 3 in clutch conditions – taking pictures percentages which can be higher than each aforementioned player other than DeRozan.
He has two game-winners on the season: one in opposition to the Pistons and one in opposition to the Cavaliers. He would have a 3rd in opposition to the Bulls, however DeRozan’s miraculous second buzzer-beater in as many days ruined that for him.
All of this to say, this season, Kuzma has been way more than the match pics you see on Twitter or no matter notion you continue to have of him from his Laker days.
He has been a authentic difference-maker for the Wizards and is beginning to blossom into the player he was anticipated to be after his breakout rookie season in Los Angeles.